Indian Premier League 2021: How Chris Morris became most expensive signing

By Kal SajadBBC Sport
Chris Morris training at Rajasthan Royals
Morris returned to Rajasthan Royals having previously played for the franchise in 2015
Indian Premier League 2021
Dates: 9 April - 30 May
Coverage: Selected radio commentaries on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and the BBC Sport website and app. Regular features and a weekly IPL Social column on the BBC Sport website

If you are a friend of Chris Morris, you are unlikely to be getting a round in any time soon.

On the evening of 18 February, the South Africa all-rounder settled down in his Durban hotel room and eagerly watched on as the 2021 Indian Premier League auction took place 4,418 miles away in Chennai.

Moments later, the 33-year-old became the most expensive signing in the Twenty20 tournament's history after he was snapped up by Rajasthan Royals for £1.6m.

"My phone blew up - my mates from home were saying they'll never pay for beers or anything again," Morris tells BBC Sport.

From his all-round talents on the field to a love of music and Manchester United, BBC Sport finds out more...

An all-rounder with unfinished business

Morris was a relative latecomer to the sport, having made his first-class debut aged 22, but has gone on to become one of the most sought-after cricketers in franchise cricket.

A wicket-taking yet economical seam bowler who can reach speeds of up to 90mph, and a powerful hitter lower down the order, this will be Morris' eighth season in the IPL.

After injury hampered his stint with Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2020, where he only managed nine appearances, he felt he had a point to prove.

"I badly wanted to get back into the IPL. I had unfinished business," he says.

Accompanied by team-mate Simon Harmer on the day before a match for Titans in South Africa's domestic Twenty20 competition, Morris watched on in sheer disbelief as RCB and Rajasthan Royals - whom he also played for in 2015 - battled it out for his services.

When the bidding war finally ended, Morris had overtaken former India star Yuvraj Singh as the most expensive IPL signing of all time.

"We basically laughed the whole way through, not believing what had happened," he says.

"The first thing Simon did was grab a few beers so we could celebrate the day before a game, the professionals that we are."

The natural high from the night before seemed to override the consumption of a few - or maybe several - beers as Morris put in a fine all-round display, taking 1-10 from 3.2 overs and blasting an unbeaten 21 from eight balls as the Titans beat the Knights by six wickets.

Chris Morris playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore
Morris has played in 70 IPL matches since 2013, taking 80 wickets at an economy rate of 7.81 and averages 23.95 with the bat, at a strike-rate of 157.87

Morris has played four Tests, 42 one-day-internationals and 23 T20s for South Africa, with his last international appearance coming at the 2019 World Cup.

He cites his skills and talent to change the game with bat or ball as the reason behind his price tag, and says all-rounders were "in huge demand" in this year's IPL.

New Zealand's Kyle Jamieson was sold to RCB for £1.48m, while Moeen Ali went to Chennai Super Kings for £700,00 and England team-mate Tom Curran joined Delhi Capitals for close to £520,000.

"As an all-rounder you can impact the game in all three facets - you have an opportunity most of the time to change the game," Morris says.

"If you look at Mumbai Indians, guys like Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard can affect the game with the ball, bat or in the field."

'This is just the cherry on the cake'

When Morris secured his first IPL deal with Chennai Super Kings in 2013 - worth £452,000 - he paid off his parents' mortgage.

A keen car enthusiast, last year he also treated himself to a new pick-up truck, but, despite a seven-figure sum being credited to his bank account very soon, Morris says he will look to be a bit more frugal this year.

"Everything I've wanted to do and set up my whole life after cricket has pretty much been set up. This is just the cherry on the cake," he says.

"I'm a big believer in wanting to look after what my family does in the future - if my three-year-old son needs to have a car when he's 18 or needs to go to university, I don't have to worry about stuff like that.

"It's not about spoiling us now, about buying cars, holiday home. It's just about making sure everyone is looked after one day."

Chris Morris training at Delhi Capitals
Morris has played for Chennai Super Kings, Delhi Capitals, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rajasthan Royals in the IPL

Morris accepts that with a high price tag comes extra pressure and expectation, although admits he finds it a "little uncomfortable" discussing his earnings.

"Traditionally people try to keep their salaries close to themselves - how much you earn a month is quite a personal thing," he adds.

"When it comes to NFL, baseball or anything like that, these things are out in the press and it's about accepting it will be out there and you crack on.

"You'll always get a bit of a ribbing from people but it's not your decision what you get paid. You just accept it and say thank you."

'An average Joe with a love of Man Utd'

In the cricket-loving nation of India, Morris - who stands 6ft 4in - has a somewhat celebrity status and is "humbled" by requests of photo and autographs from adoring fans.

But life in India is a world apart from the tranquillity of his hometown in South Africa.

"I quite enjoy going to the bush," he says. "I'm just an average Joe. I take my son to school, play a round of golf, go to the shops with my wife and spend quite a bit of time at home with my family."

Outside of cricket, Morris has an eclectic taste for music and describes himself as a "diehard" Manchester United fan.

"I mainly lean to rock music but like a bit of everything, from squeaky bass to something you can do a few moves to in a pub or on a dance floor," he says.

When jokingly asked which part of Manchester he is from, Morris replies: "I'm from the Theatre of Dreams" - a term commonly used to describe United's Old Trafford stadium.

"My grandfather brought United into our family when he went to England, because my great grandfather is English," Morris explains.

"He came back to South Africa with two tracksuits. One was for my uncle, which was Leeds United, and the other was for my dad, which was Manchester United.

"Fortunately enough my dad got the United tracksuit otherwise I would have been a Leeds United supporter."

Manchester United are currently second in the Premier League - behind rivals Manchester City.

Given the choice between scoring a hundred and taking five wickets in the IPL final or seeing his beloved United win the title, Morris says: "I'll take the five-for and century. The league is gone; City are going to win it."

Morris is yet to watch United play at Old Trafford and, although his recent earnings could see him splash out on a season ticket one day, it may be wise not to attend any away games at nearby Anfield.

"I tell you what, though, I'd be happy for United to end 16th in the league table if Liverpool get relegated," he adds with a smile.

Around the BBC - SoundsAround the BBC footer - Sounds

Top Stories

Elsewhere on the BBC

Cricket on the BBC